The Gift of Insight: In A Twinkling, Peeling Back the Years of Experience

My husband, John, is smart, but he does not know everything. I have proof.

Get this: He says that sometimes, I disagree with him “just to disagree.”

I’m sure that most readers of this column can agree he’s just a little bit off the mark on that count.

Still, John is a man devoted to learning (and other things), a somewhat quiet man (which, no, does not mean I talk too much) and has wonderful insights.

Lifelong learning is a philosophy we both like. Standing still is not an option.

For example, what would life be like if I still made spaghetti sauce the way I made it 20 years ago — bottled marinara and sautéed burger? About 15 years ago, I started adding one or two of those tiny cans of mushrooms.

I try to learn all the time.

No, seriously. As a freelance writer, I learn new things all the time because of the endless, exhaustive research I conduct.

What is the lifespan of an outdoors-type chipmunk? “What is three years?”

When should you ask your teenagers for information? “Now, while they still know everything.”

Is “Denial” a river in Egypt? “Yes.”

It was while attending the annual local celebration called “Poolesville Day” recently that I saw again that my husband, John, is a lifelong learner, too.

A thoughtful one.

John said he wanted to show me the kind of motorcycle that had been his dream as a little boy.

His shiny dream bike stood in an array with several shiny others. I studied it carefully, but I am sadly sure you could have blindfolded me after 30 minutes, switched the bikes around, and I would never be able to figure out which gorgeous, shiny chrome bike had been his favorite.

Luckily, that’s not the point.

From here on, I am paraphrasing (more than usual).

“When I saw this motorcycle, boyhood memories returned and — the reason why I loved each specific design/mechanical/motor feature came rushing back.

“Today I realized also that, as a kid, I soon developed the notion that the people who rode these bikes — these ‘choppers’ — were cool. They were hippies, part of a subculture I associated with peace, love and understanding.”

“I realized a few moments ago that as I got even older, I became less enchanted with this style of motorcycle. I no longer thought of this feature as beautiful.

[He gestured at something on the bike I can only think of as a motorcycle ‘neck’].

“I no longer admired this [a gesture to something near the back of the seat] or this [a whatever around the pedals].”

“Today, when I first looked at the bike, I remembered in a rush — and with great clarity — all that I loved about it when I was very little. A second later, I remembered that over the years I grew to admire the design less. For the first time, I realized I started to like the bike less as I grew up, not because of its design, but because of what other things it came to represent to me in society.

“As a boy I hadn’t been aware of bike gangs, organized criminals and other stereotypes that later began to be associated in popular culture with motorcycles that looked like this. Gradually, who I saw on the bike changed what I saw in the bike, even though today I know that all kinds of people — not just gang members or whatever — ride bikes of this style every day.

“I realize that my perceptions of groups once associated with the motorcycle, undermined my first love, which was for the pure design.

“Today it was eye-opening and moving to look at this motorcycle and remember it through the mind I had as a little boy. To see what I loved about it and to understand why.”

Hmm. Was that a kind of reverse learning process my husband had just engaged in?

Can old stuff be part of lifelong learning? I think so — when we are blessed by the insights.

We may not have been right as kids, but we were shiny, creative and true beings — or perhaps as close to it as we will ever be.

Had any lifelong learning moments lately? I would love to “learn” of them. Please share.